Changes to Lismore’s development contributions policy proposed at Tuesday’s council meeting will place the city on a level footing with Ballina and Byron
The new discounts to so-called section 64 and section 94 charges are designed to make it more attractive to open new businesses in the Lismore CBD and to build second dwellings or granny flats on existing blocks.
The policy, which followed recent community workshops on the issue, encountered no opposition in Council and so far has been overwhelmingly supported by the community.
The residential housing option is seen as an effective way to create additional low-cost housing utilising existing infrastructure, including roads, water and sewerage.
And slashing development contributions for new businesses opening up in existing CBD premises will help to ensure the city’s heart continues to thrive, councillors said.
Julie Dickson is a new Lismore restaurant owner, who told Council during public access that this policy would prevent the town from becoming a ‘tumbleweed’ CBD.
Ms Dickson, who opened her new restaurant in what was formerly a retail store, said the proposed ‘change of use’ fees under the old regime would have been a ‘deal breaker’ in the decision to proceed with her venture.
‘These changes will have a deep and long-term positive impact on the health of Lismore’s economy and community,’ said Ms Dickson.
‘Your policy is right on target and will increase sustainable economic rigour, which in turn will increase job prosperity, decrease the crime rate and will help create a sense of place,’ Ms Dickson said.
Ms Dickson referred to the changing landscape of CBDs Australiawide.
‘Entrepreneurs are reacting to a changing retail environment because of online retail and service delivery,’ she said.
Reducing barriers to entry for non-retail businesses in the CBD will allow the occupation of once vacant premises in the CBD according to Ms Dickson.
‘This allows businesses such as my own (restaurant) to occupy spaces that were once traditionally retail,’ she said.
Without these changes to current developer contributions, Ms Dickson believes that entrepreneurs would look to open up elsewhere.
‘I in fact faced the same choice,’ she said. ‘The original fees that I faced were a deal breaker.’
‘The fees that would normally be charged by Council for change of use made my business unviable,’ she said.
‘These fees represented 18 per cent of the capital acquisition cost of my building.’
Cr Gianpiero Battista asked Ms Dickson how close she came to not opening her business in the Lismore CBD.
‘We were on a razor’s edge until we became aware of these proposed changes,’ she said, ‘so we decided to tread water until the impending changes came about.’
Deputy mayor Neil Marks told Council, ‘it wasn’t often that post-workshop you hear an audible hoorah, but that is what happened when we workshopped this discount policy’.
Cr Marks acknowledged that previous developers may be unhappy at having missed out on the discounts. Council reports show that recent restaurant applications have had levies in excess of $60,000.
‘People in the future will certainly benefit from this,’ he said. ‘I would like to see this extend to South Lismore, North Lismore, Goonellabah etc.’
LCC does recognise that there are some businesses outside the CBD that have large floor areas, for example, but require very limited water services. The policy proposes that rather than apply the Water Directorate Guidelines, when assessing these activities LCC will negotiate with developers to ensure that s64 charges more accurately reflect the volume of water usage generated by the activity.
Cr Battista commended the hard work from Council staff that developed this policy.
‘This has to be the best policy I have seen in my life as a councillor,’ he said. ‘I hope it is just a step in the further improvement of the shopping experience in the Lismore CBD.’
Both Ballina and Byron councils have adopted developer contribution incentive policies for secondary dwellings, with Byron Shire Council reporting a significant increase in secondary dwelling approvals since the introduction of their policy.
The residential options in the LCC policy should encourage the addition of granny flats or the like onto existing detached dwellings.
These additions can take several forms and will have positive outcomes according to a Council report. These include: increasing the range of residential accommodation types, increasing the availability of more affordable housing types, providing opportunities for ‘ageing in place’ for elderly residents, and existing residents can capitalise on space and opportunities for inter-generational care for families.
LCC will now put the discount policy up on public exhibition for a 28-day period to gauge the community’s support of the proposal.